Life is never dull for Grant Hall. He works across the globe with many different cultures. Specifically, Grant believes events are a great relationship builder between cultures. He draws on his experience around the world to help businesses develop more sensitive techniques when dealing with different cultures.
What’s your story?
I’m the owner of League Cultural Diplomacy, an event management and consulting agency that specialises in corporate cultural diplomacy. We help businesses develop relationships using cultural diplomacy techniques that governments have used for centuries.
My background is as a musician and then later as an arts administrator and educator where I worked in Northern Ireland, Canada, Vietnam and my home country, Australia. When it comes to event management, I’ve done the lot, from managing orchestral concert tours to coordinating large festivals and working with Indigenous artists in remote areas of Australia. I’ve worked for governments, arts organisations and universities. Through many years of working abroad, I’ve noticed how arts, cultural and sport events and initiatives can be used to build relationships and trust between people from different cultures, and how this can be useful for businesses operating overseas. This is what League Cultural Diplomacy is all about.
What excites you most about your industry?
Working in the events and cultural diplomacy fields, I’m constantly excited about the power of cultural activities, such as making music, sharing food or playing sport to create bonds across cultural and linguistic divides. Understanding culture is a very powerful. Once better understood it can be used by organisations or individuals seeking to develop relationships, trust and influence. Working in this industry allows me to travel and meet many interesting people from a wide variety of professions from all over the globe. Life’s never dull.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Like many others, I fell into doing business in Asia. I first came to Vietnam for a holiday and soon wound up in demand as an independent contractor teaching business and communication skills to employees of organisations that were under the management of expatriate managers from western countries. I often help my clients negotiate the cultural differences between the locally engaged staff and foreign management; a role that I found both challenging and thoroughly rewarding. I’ve lived in Vietnam, on and off now for six years.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I recently visited Jaipur in India. Often when I mention corporate cultural diplomacy, people have no idea what I’m talking about. In Jaipur however this is different. Jaipur is a sports mad city with a rich cultural heritage and people instinctively know what I mean and deeply understand the value of culture. There’s so much to see and do there as well.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
In the earliest days of setting up League Cultural Diplomacy, someone challenged me to “see myself in the room.” Now, I’m at the stage where I’m travelling abroad to meet with prospective clients and negotiating my first contracts. Essentially I’m now “in the room” that I was encouraged to visualise. It’s a variation on the “if you can see it, you can achieve it” theme. Of course, simply visualising a future scenario or really wanting it is never enough. A whole lot of hard work is needed too.
Who inspires you?
I get to work with some extraordinary people from the business, arts and sporting worlds. The thing that I admire most about athletes and artists is their dedication and desire to do their very best and I’m especially inspired by business people who apply themselves to their work like an athlete or an artist does to theirs.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Throughout my blog, wherewordsfailblog.com, I argue that organisations, including businesses and governments will benefit from putting culture at the centre of their operations. Since launching the blog in January 2015, hundreds of people have contacted me to share similar thoughts and provide examples of organisations where this is occurring and the success that it has brought. The social theorist Paul Schafer recently sent me an advance copy of his excellent new book The Secrets of Culture where he promotes the idea that humanity needs to ‘pass out of the present economic age and into a future cultural age.’ It turns out that a great number of people, including myself, agree with him and are working to make this happen.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! As the song goes; “regrets are just lessons we haven’t learned yet”.
How do you unwind?
We live on the coast in Vietnam so it’s about the beach, resorts, seafood, beer and fun with family and friends.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Gulf of Thailand on the Cambodian side for the beautiful beaches, islands and people. It’s not hard to find your own deserted tropical beach paradise, simply grab a motorbike and head along the coast or get on a boat and find an island. No phone reception, no Wi-Fi, just pure bliss!
Everyone in business should read this book:
In one of the most popular posts on my blog, wherewordsfailblog.com, I discuss Robert M. Pirsig’s novels, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila. In these books Pirsig threads philosophical viewpoints through semi-autobiographical road-trip tales. Pirsig’s writings investigate the concept of quality, addressing questions like what is quality and how do we know it when we see it? Whilst it’s not a business book, Zen is the book that everyone in business should read as understanding quality and knowing how to apply it to your work is a good recipe for success.
Shameless plug for your business:
If you want to build great relationships, with any person or group, anywhere, call me!
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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